Sugary drinks like sports drinks and sodas represent a health risk to kids, are major contributor to heart disease and diabetes
WASHINGTON – Today, Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau along with eight colleagues introduced a bill to increase access to healthy food and childcare and improve park space through a 1.5 cent per ounce excise tax on sugary drinks. The Healthy Beverage Choices Act of 2019 was co-introduced by Councilmembers representing a majority of the Council including Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Trayon White, Brandon Todd, David Grosso, Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Anita Bonds, and Chairman Phil Mendelson. It was also co-sponsored by Councilmember Jack Evans. It was sequentially referred to the Committee on Business and Economic Development and the Committee of the Whole.
“Sugary drinks are a health risk for our kids and the scientific evidence shows they are a major contributor to heart disease and diabetes,” said Councilmember Nadeau. “In DC, residents living in the lowest income neighborhoods have the least access to healthy drinks and full-service grocery options. This bill reinvests in our neighborhoods by providing healthy food, expanding childcare options, and improving parks.”
Sugary drinks like sports drinks and sodas represent a real health risk to kids. On average, children in the U.S. consume over 30 gallons of sugary drinks every year, and each week drink up to ten times the amount recommended by the American Heart Association. Scientific evidence shows that consumption of sugary drinks is a major contributor to increasing rates of diabetes and heart disease. Nearly half of all adults living in the District have diabetes or prediabetes, which is responsible for $700 million in direct medical costs and indirect costs annually due to lost productivity. The beverage industry further exacerbates these health disparities by targeting communities of color, with Black children and teens more than twice as likely to see TV ads for sugary drinks than their white peers. According to DC Department of Health data, approximately 15% of residents in Wards 7 and 8 had diabetes in 2015-2016, about 4 times the rate in Ward 3.
The bill repeals the existing 8% sales tax on sugary drinks (passed in 2010 and raised in 2019) and creates a new 1.5 cent per ounce excise tax on sugary drinks in the District. An excise tax means the change in price would appear on the price tag rather than at the register. Similar sugary drink excise taxes in Philadelphia and Berkley reduced consumption of sugary drinks while funding needed programs.
In the District, the bill will fund programs that help communities most affected by sugary drinks and lack of access to healthy food. It will:
- Fund portions of the “Birth-to-Three” Act that will expand childcare access by providing payments to child development facilities for infants and toddlers.
- Expand funding for a variety of healthy eating/food programs, including the Department of Health’s Food as Medicine programs (such as Produce Rx) that increase access to fresh fruit and vegetables in communities with the least access.
- Provide funding to manage and improve parks and open spaces.
- Establish grants—to be administered by the Food Policy Council—for programs that promote healthy eating, physical activity, and chronic disease prevention.
The bill is supported by a broad coalition of organizations from across the District including Advocates for Better Children’s Diets; American Academy of Pediatrics, D.C. Chapter; American Heart Association; Center for Science in the Public Interest; DC Greens; Don’t Mute My Health Coalition; DC Health Alliance Network; and Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness, George Washington University.
Frequently asked questions and the full text of the bill are below.
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